Who Invented the Computer? (Coming Soon to GoCertify)

Who invented the computer? Let's find out together.

In many cases, we have a pretty clear understanding of how (and by whom) certain things were invented. There's an established and accepted backstory for the modern mechanical cotton gin, for example, the first working model of which was designed and built by American inventor Eli Whitney of Massachusetts in 1793.

In some cases, fanciful stories attribute the creation of this or that beloved convenience to a colorful figure or happy accident. Sure, it's a nifty yarn that John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, launched a culinary revolution because he wanted something he could eat without stopping playing cards. But was Montagu really the first person to ever dine on cold meats layered between slices of bread?

In still other cases, there's neither a single point in time nor a solitary individual that historians can point to and say, "This is when it happened," or "This is who deserves the credit." And that's what brings us to the question that will occupy a running series of GoCertify articles over the next year or so: Who invented the computer?

Sometimes many people, working separately or together, in different places and across different generations, play a role in a process of evolution that gradually results in a thing, or class of things, to which we apply a single label. The "computer" wasn't invented at a single point in time, or in a single place, or by a single individual.

This is story that has many different chapters — we're not even certain how many. The story is still unfolding, after all. As to the end of the series, well, we'll get there when we get there. We've commissioned GoCertify's resident history buff, Calvin Harper, to gather this story's many threads and weave them into a tapestry. We have a rough outline, but we'll weave in new threads as Calvin finds them.

Watch for the first article in the series to appear sometime in the next three weeks. After that, we'll dole them out at a rate of one (or possibly sometimes two, or maybe sometimes none) per month.

We hope you'll follow along and learn with us as we explore an origin story that highlights the real-life superheroes of the Information Age. We all use computers every day, but how many of use could trace their history further back than an order receipt from an electronics store or online vendor?

Maybe you know all (or most) of this stuff already. Or maybe you just think you do. Even if you're entirely familiar, say, with the fellow whose ideas about mechnical computation led him to conceptualize an "engine for calculating mathematical and astronomical tables" in the 1820s, there may be twists and turns in the larger story that you've never head about before.

Let's all learn a few things together.

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

GoCertify's mission is to help both students and working professionals get IT certifications. GoCertify was founded in 1998 by Anne Martinez.